Thursday, January 25, 2007

Daf Yomi Taanit: Berachot 14a: What Does It Mean To Taste During a Fast?

A short while ago in Rif Yomi, the Rif {Rif Taanit 4a} cited a gemara in Berachot and discussed whether one may taste during a fast, and then gave a definition of tasting, citing a Yerushalmi for support:
גרסי' בפ' היה קורא בתורה בעא מיניה אשיאן תנא דבי רבי אמי מר' אמי השרוי בתענית מהו שיטעום
אכילה ושתיה קביל עליה והא לא קא אכיל או דילמא הנאה קביל והא קא מתהני
אמר ליה טועם ואין בכך כלום

תניא נמי הכי מטעמת אינה צריכ' ברכה והשרוי בתענית טועם ואין בכך כלום

We learn in perek Haya Korei BaTorah {Berachot 14a}: Assian the Tanna {reciter of Tannaitic sources} in the academy of Rabbi Ammi inquired of Rabbi Ammi: One who is dwelling in fast, may he taste?
Eating and drinking he accepted upon himself, and he is not here eating, or perhaps benefit he accepted upon himself {not to do} and here he is benefiting?
He {Rabbi Ammi} said to him: He may taste, and there is nothing in this.

A brayta also say so: A taste does not require a blessing, and one who dwells in fast may taste, and there is nothing in this.

ועד כמה רבי אמי ורבי אסי טעמי עד רביעיתא
ומפרשי רבנן דצריך לאזהורי כי היכי דלא ליבלע כלום:

And until much? Rabbi Ammi and Rabbi Assi would taste up to a reviit.
And the {post-Talmudic} Sages explained that {in tasting} he needs to be careful that he does not actually swallow anything.

ירושלמי בנדרים בפרק קונם יין שאני טועם
נדר להתענות ושכח ואכל כבר אבד תעניתו
רבי אבא בשם רבנן דתמן והוא שאמר יום סתם ומתענה יום אחר כדי לקיים נדרו הואיל ושכח ואכל ביום זה
הא אם אמר יום זה מתענה ומשלים
ולא אמרן אלא אם בלע אבל אם טעם לא
כלומר אפי' אמר יום סתם אם לא אכל אלא טעם בלבד מתענה ומשלים אותו היום:
Yerushalmi, in Nedarim Perek Konam Yayim {perek 8, Nedarim 26b}:
If someone vowed to fast, forgot and ate, he has already lost his fast.
Rabbi Abba cited the Sages of there {Bavel}: And this is where he said "a day" plain {rather than this specific day}. And so he fasts another day in order to fulfill his vow, since he forgot and ate on this specific say. But, if he said "this day," he finishes the fast. And they only said this if he swallowed. But if he merely tasted, no.
That is to say, even if he says "a day" plainly, if he did not eat but only tasted, he finishes the fast on that day.
This is a fairly convincing argument. Yet, I could present a counterargument for both Bavli and Yerushalmi, and define tasting as putting a tiny amount of food in one's mouth and swallowing it.

Note that the Bavli does not define tasting, just distinguishing it from eating and drinking. And furthermore, there is a set measure up to which one may taste -- a reviit for liquids. If the point of distinction whereby tasting would or would not be permitted is
אכילה ושתיה קביל עליה והא לא קא אכיל או דילמא הנאה קביל והא קא מתהני
Eating and drinking he accepted upon himself, and he is not here eating, or perhaps benefit he accepted upon himself {not to do} and here he is benefiting?
and tasting is permitted, then why should it be permitted only up to a certain point, that of a reviit? Having the pleasure of the taste of drink in one's mouth is just that pleasure, it is not drinking or eating! And even if one placed, either simultaneously or sequentially, two reviit in one's mouth and then spat it out, one would not be eating. So why should there be an upward limit on tasting? (One might counter-argue that when liquid is in one's mouth, a tiny amount is absorbed into the bloodstream, a phenomenon encountered when doing a lot of wine-tasting, even when the wine is consistently expelled from one's mouth.)

On the other hand, if tasting involves swallowing a bit each time, then the upwards limit of reviit (either including or not including the upward limit as permitted) makes sense. For even if we consider the concept of chatzi shiur as prohibited, that is achila, eating, of a chatzi shiur, and this tasting is not considered achila (/shetiya). However, once we reach the full measure of reviit, even though each time he swallowed only a tiny amount, we would find this problematic and perhaps even within the realm of achila, since all together it adds up to what one would eat/drink, and perhaps it is now considered achila/shetiya, rather than just the hanaah from the taste.

However, the Rif brings forth a very convincing argument with his citation of the Yerushalmi which stated ולא אמרן אלא אם בלע אבל אם טעם לא, thus setting up "tasting" as opposed to "swallowing." It is thus clear that tasting means without swallowing.

Yet there are difficulties with this. Firstly, what is the definition of eating, achila, when the Yerushalmi states נדר להתענות ושכח ואכל כבר אבד תעניתו?

Ran (on the daf of Rif) suggests that the measure of eating is that of a koseves, a date, and learns this from a parallel to the affliction of eating by Yom Kippur. This Ran seems problematic in that it sets up an apparent contradiction between the beginning of the Yerushalmi and the end.

In the beginning, we state נדר להתענות ושכח ואכל כבר אבד תעניתו. If we define this as eating a koseves or more, then if he ate less than that he does not lose his fast. At the end, we state ולא אמרן אלא אם בלע אבל אם טעם לא. This states that if he swallowed, he loses his fast, but if he merely tasted, he does not. The simplest implication of this is that if he swallowed less than a koseves, since this is not mere tasting, he would indeed lose his fast.

(This is a question common to the style of the setama digmara, which typically then resolves it with a chasurei mechsera vehachi katani.)

Further, if the known implication of achila in the beginning was a koseves, then what need was there at the end to mention tasting. With tasting, he did not swallow a koseves!

Perhaps one can rescue this by setting up a similar distinction to the strange one in Bavli about tasting up to a reviit or less than a reviit. That is, in the beginning it was speaking about eating a koseves or more. And, we would have thought that this included even tasting and not swallowing a koseves. Then, towards the end, we have a clarification -- either that putting a koseves in one's mouth and not swallowing is considered nothing, or perhaps (if we were exactly parallel to the reviit in the Bavli) putting less than a koseves in one's mouth and not swallowing is considered nothing. The former is problematic, as it contradicts the Bavli's upper limit of reviit even for tasting. The latter is problematic, for what need would one have to distinguish between tasting and swallowing in such a case?

One can resolve this Ran in a few ways. Perhaps these questions are not valid questions, and it is just the way of the gemara, and so:
a) eating and thus swallowing a koseves would cancel a fast, but tasting and not swallowing a koseves would not
b) eating and thus swallowing a koseves would cancel a fast, but eating less than a koseves would not cancel a fast, yet should not be done; meanwhile, mere tasting is entirely permitted. This is not really the implication of ולא אמרן אלא אם בלע אבל אם טעם לא, where the issue is canceling the fast, but we are saying that the gemara is being somewhat inexact.

Or else, one could say that the Ran was incorrect in his giving a measure of koseves to the eating which cancels a fast, and in truth, swallowing any amount would cancel the fast.

There is a further "problem" with the Ran. Specifically, our girsa of the Yerushalmi is different from that of the Rif on two counts, and the first is that where Rif's Yerushalmi has נדר להתענות ושכח ואכל כבר אבד תעניתו, our Yerushalmi has נדר להתענות ושכח ואכל כזית כבר אבד תעניתו.

Thus, Ran would appear to be incorrect in positing a koseves as a measure of eating which would cancel a fast, since we have a version of the Yerushalmi that explicitly gives the measure of a kezayis.

I would note that the type of fast under discussion here is one adopted via vow, and this thus falls under the definition of standard achila rather than a definition of a fast. Thus, I would argue that kezayis actually makes more sense than koseves here, and thus I would side with the explicit Yerushalmi in our girsa over the Ran's perush to the girsa where it is missing.

Of course, this could be an incorrect girsa. And all the questions we have asked above on the Ran can now be asked on this explicit Yerushalmi, substituting the word koseves with kezayis.

Thus, we tend to think that the Ran is conceptually correct that there is a minimum measure for eating, even if he might be incorrect in the specific measure.

How then can we resolve the questions we asked above? First, let us see the Yerushalmi inside, as we have it:

נדר להתענות ושכח ואכל כזית איבד תעניתו.
ר' בא בשם רבנין דתמן והוא שאמר יום סתם.
הא אם אמר יום זה מתענה ומשלים.
לא אמר אלא אכל.
הא טעם לא.

We can note two differences from the Yerushalmi of the Rif. The first is that it is ואכל כזית rather than just ואכל, as we have discussed above.

The second is that rather than stating ולא אמרן אלא אם בלע אבל אם טעם לא, we have לא אמר אלא אכל .הא טעם לא That is, rather that tasting being contrasted with swallowing, tasting is contrasted with eating.

Now, one could argue haynu hach, they are identical, and this is just substitution of one term for another. This certainly makes sense according to those who say that tasting means not swallowing. Thus, אכל means בלע.

On the other hand, we can say that what is meant here by אכל is exactly what was meant by אכל above, that is, achila of a kezayis. Meanwhile, טעם refers to (perhaps much) less than a kezayis. Or alternatively, it refers to normal eating (even of chatzi shiur), whereas tasting, even tasting and swallowing, is not considered normal eating (and is not considered chatzi shiur).

It then makes sense to impose minimal shiur of a kezayis (or koseves), as above.

Of course, this would have broad implications for fast days, and quite possible clashes with other definitions of chatzi shuir from elsewhere, such that it would disprove this. Tzarich Iyyyun Gadol.

And it need not be said, this discussion is not intended halacha lemaaseh.


Ariella said...

On tasting vs. eating, see

joshwaxman said...

and I haven't forgotten the question you posed. haven't had time to address it yet, but haven't forgotten...


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